News : Search is on for the oldest UK-made Toyota

In December 1992, history was made when the first Toyota Carina E rolled off the line at Toyota’s newly opened factory at Burnaston, in Derbyshire. Twenty years on, it’s time to celebrate and Toyota is hoping to mark the occasion by tracing the oldest surviving example still in daily use.

To mark the 20th birthday of the first Carina E to roll off the line at Toyota’s Burnaston factory in Derbyshire, the company has launched a competition, offering owners and drivers of the UK’s oldest British-built Toyotas a chance to get behind the wheel of the newest – the all-new Auris to be launched in December.

It is seeking the help of enthusiasts across the land to track down those early cars and their owners, using the power of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Anyone spotting a K-plate Carina E is asked to let the owner know about the search, perhaps simply by putting a note on the car’s windscreen, and that Toyota would like to get in touch.

If you own such a car, you can easily confirm whether it was British-built, or one of a number that were imported from Japan. The 17-character code on the vehicle’s identification plate will start with an S for Burnaston vehicles, and a J for imported cars. The plate can be found under the bonnet, just below the windscreen wipers.

To let Toyota know about the car, name, address and contact details should be emailed to Owners of the oldest examples found will be invited to tell their car’s story and have it photographed, and will have the chance to win use of a new Auris for a week (terms and conditions apply).

Toyota owners and spotters are also invited to post pictures of early Carina E on Facebook or by posting on Twitter with the hashtag #firstGBtoyota. The vehicle owner’s permission must be obtained before posting.

By 1993, Carina E was in full-scale production at Burnaston, beginning a long-line of saloon and hatchback production that continues today with Avensis and new Auris and Auris Hybrid. Its output makes a significant contribution to the current prosperity of the country’s automotive industry: last year Burnaston produced more than 128,000 vehicles, 80 per cent of which were sent for export to Europe and other world markets.

Keith Adams


  1. The use of an Auris for a week? Woo. How generous of them. I think it would be more fitting for the owner to have their car restored to “new” condition by Toyota GB.
    On a positive note, I don’t know why I find the idea of tracking down the oldest UK built Toyota so interesting…I think when they find it it should be placed in a glass case and put outside the factory 😀

  2. Fella I used to work with has a white Carina diesel in daily use. It has had some abuse, and has an agricultural towbar, but it never let him down.

    As it has an NI plate it is difficult to trace the age, but I’ll let him know and see what he says.

    When was it facelifted with the ‘T’ grille?

  3. I did see something recently about the first one made at Derby being in a museum, though I guess they are trying to find the first one on general sale.

  4. Whats the difference between a 10 a penny Japanese car and a one off, unique British Leyland prototype? The Jap car is on display inside Gaydon!

  5. I wonder if Nissan will now launch a search for the first Bluebird to be made at Sunderland. My uncle had four Sunderland made Nissans that regularly did high mileages and had almost no problems with them. The Japanese move into Britain was the best thing to happen to the car industry since Herbert Austin launched his 7.

  6. The first carina is in the lobby of the Toyota admin building at burnaston. All the first few years of uk production were petrol only 1.6 & 2.0 with 1.8 a bit later. No pas on Some of the LHd cars, no a/c and air bags on drivers side only (high grade option)

  7. @11 I believe Nissan value ‘heritage’ far more highly than Toyota, as I understand they have at least 1 of the first batch of Bluebirds if not 2 of them.

  8. Nissan donated the first “production” Bluebird (white 2.0SGX) to Sunderland Museum. It’s still there. Prior to that a trial Bluebird was made (white 1.8 Turbo ZX). I understand that car was broken up.

  9. There are quite a few examples of these cockroach cars in Ipswich, and I regularly see a K plater, which had for sale stickers in the windows!

  10. Will deffo keep an eye out for it again Keith, perhaps the bods at Toyota Derby should come down here & come Carina spotting!

  11. The oldest I know of is in Ireland and it was the first locally registered with the plate 92-TN-901. Afaik it’s still on the road but I’m not home often enough to contact the owner.

  12. Why bother? Toyota’s may be worthwhile appliances and a worthwhile alternative to walking if the weathers bad, but all of them are so soul sapingly uninteresting – you can only take an interest in cars so far surely???

  13. These were awful cars to drive when new. At the time I was delivering hire cars on the side, and always hated driving these. It may have been poor tyres that were at fault- but these cars could spin the wheels in the first three gears without meaning to, and the view out of the back window was like looking through a letterbox.

    There are sure to be tons of these in Gloucester- we have a very large Pakistani community here, and by and large, many prefer functional and reliable Japanese cars over more ostentatious maques, and tend to keep them a very long time. There is an A reg Camry down the road from here. Of course it helps that Japanese cars were often painted in high quality paint which looks good for many years- especially red cars which don’t seem to fade at all.

    I’ll keep my eyes peeled- but like a lot of Japanese cars, they are so anonymous that you just don’t notice them. Must be tons of Primeras around but I can’t remember the last time I saw one.

  14. It’s interesting to reflect that many people will buy anything eg Carina, Corolla, Bluebird etc, as long as it’s reliable.

    I’m not being jugemental in saying that but simply making an observation.

  15. Davep,as long as it’s reliable, surely this is the reason most people buy a car and why the Japanese and Germans have been so successful while British Leyland went into terminal decline. Had British Leyland’s otherwise excellent products like the Rover SD1 and Jaguar XJ been more reliable, not to mention the more bread and butter models, then British Leyland could have been as big as the Volkswagen Audi Group with its foreign subsidiaries in Italy and Belgium being like Skoda and SEAT are to the German Volkswagen Audi.

  16. Actually I could add a friend who has a BMW X5, supposed to be the epitome of quality and reliability, and rainwater leaked into the glovebox and also killed the ECU, meaning the car was as useless as it having no wheels. While I quite like the products of Volkswagen Audi, and am fond of their cousins SEAT, BMWs have never impressed me much. The 1 series, a Focus contender, has rwd FFS( wonder if it also has four speeds, a carburettor and a hole for the radio, as sticking with rwd is like keeping these anachronisms), and is lethal in snow and the wet to those of us who have had decades of fwd. Not forgetting, of course, the way they brought Rover down.

  17. @32 VAG cars have had a torrid time over the last 7 or 8 years – electric, engine and injector problems. Jaguar XJs have been the second most reliable executive cars for the last 15 years just behind Lexus. BMW 7 series has been awful. S Class just about the only reasonably reliable Merc.

    If Rover had half the problems experienced by recent VAG cars it would be front page news – the press is either biased or bought off.

  18. @29. What pain? Doesn’t seem to do the Germans any harm. Toyota, Nissan and Honda are only here because we’re in the EU. The more detached we become, the more likely we are to lose them. And a lot of other investment.

  19. Gents,
    Got to say I had once of these as a company car a long time age “R” reg.
    I was 21 and got a 2L GTi. It hauled ar$e.
    170 horses I think….did 75,000 miles and had no hasstle what so ever. returned 36 to the gallon.
    For some strange reason the front tyres only lasted 8 or 9 thousand miles.
    All my mates had 1L fiestas…
    Quiet, smooth, well built…economical too.
    Sorry would have one of those over any of its rivals.

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